common causes of chest pain

The first thing that jumps into the mind whenever you have some sort of chest pain is heart attack! It’s only human to feel that way as we are all mortals fearing our early demises. But one thing is for sure, whatever the cause of the chest pain, it should be given careful attention. The pain can present as being sharp, dull, burning or stabbing or a dangerous tight, squeezing or crushing feeling. The chest pain can be felt anywhere from the neck down to the upper abdomen.


About a quarter of the adult population experience chest pain that isn’t related to the heart; the pain could be arising from problems in the lungs, esophagus, chest muscles, ribs or nerves. One study has placed coronary artery diseases to be the cause of 31% of the chest pains, gastrointestinal problems to be 42% cause of the pains, musculoskeletal problems to be 28% of the cause, pericarditis to be 4% of the causes of pain and pulmonary embolism to be 2% of the cause of chest pain. Other reasons also exist such as aortic aneurysms, pneumonia and lung cancer.

Some of these causes are actually life-threatening and need to be evaluated by a doctor at the earliest for proper diagnosis and treatment. A detailed look at some of these pains is needed for a better understanding.

First and foremost are heart-related causes and examples include:

Heart attack – results from the blockage of blood flow to the heart due to a blood clot.

Angina – results from restriction of blood supply to the heart due to plaque build-up in the arteries.

Pericarditis – results from an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart leading to sharp pains.

Chest pains related to the gastrointestinal tract include:

Heartburn – results in a burning sensation behind the breastbone when acid rushes up from the stomach up the esophagus.

Gall bladder or pancreas problems – inflammation of these organs can cause abdominal pain which radiates to the chest.

Swallowing disorders – Esophagus problems can lead to painful swallowing difficulties reflecting into the chest.

Chest pains due to Lung issues include:

Pulmonary hypertension – chest pain can be produced when there is high blood pressure in the arteries supplying blood to the lungs.

Collapsed lungs– Sudden onset of chest pain occurs when air leaks out into the space between the lungs and the ribs.

Pulmonary embolism– results from chest pain due to blood clot blocking the pulmonary artery and blood flow to the lungs.

Injuries to the muscles and bones also lead to chest pain:

Costochondritis – the cartilage holding your ribcage become inflamed and painful.

Injured ribs– bruised or broken ribs cause chest pain too.

Other causes of chest pain include panic attacks where the heartbeat and breathing rate accelerate along with profuse sweating, nausea, dizziness and a fear of dying. When shingles gets reactivated, it can also create creepy pain in the back along with the chest wall.

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